Intelligence lapses and the failure to adhere to accepted guidelines on the part of the Chhattisgarh police are making the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force, 14 battalions of which have been deployed in the state to assist in fighting the Maoists, sitting ducks for the rebels.
Documents accessed by Rediff.com showed that the state police:
Senior Chhattisgarh intelligence police officers maintained that information was passed on to the CRPF about the presence of Maoists in the area.
"We had given the CRPF information. But it appears they did not follow the Standard Operating Procedure," Girdhari Naik, additional director general of police, Chhattisgarh told Rediff.com
CRPF Special Sector Inspector General R K Dua categorically denied that the state police had passed any information.
"They did not give any information," he said.
With the CRPF and the state police contradicting each other, a 'Dak' from the Chhattisgarh police headquarters accessed by Rediff.com and containing the said intelligence dated June 28 was delivered to the CRPF command in Raipur only on July 3.
Highly placed CRPF sources alleged this amounted to fudging and added that the matter has been taken up with the state police.
Asked about the general quality and accuracy of intelligence from the state police, Dua said: "We rely on the state police and the Intelligence Bureau for information. They share whatever they have and we act accordingly. You have to ask the state police about the quality of intelligence they get."
Asked why the police was not providing their component to support the CRPF, state police officers said most CRPF activity was administrative in nature and that the presence of the state forces was not required.
"Whenever there are joint operations, we combine with them. But for their internal movement and administrative activities, we cannot provide any support," a senior state police officer said.
But the CRPF is not buying this line. They categorically said that the state police cannot divide the paramilitary force's activities as operational or administrative.
"There is no administrative activity in an operational area. All activities are operational," a senior CRPF officer said.
In fact, a few months earlier, the CRPF officially sent a note saying it would not go beyond a certain distance from its camps unless a state police team of 'matching rank and numbers' accompanied its personnel.
Asked about this, Dua said, "That is being discussed. We will soon arrive at a decision on how we will go about it."
The lack of a state police component means that the CRPF personnel, who are not familiar with the lay of the land and cannot speak the local language, are left to their own devices deep inside the Maoist areas.
Meanwhile, the CRPF headquarters in Delhi, after analysing operations over the last two to three months, has demanded an explanation from the Chhattisgarh command as to why the state police component has been missing in the last 20 operations.
In the April 6 Chintalnar incident which killed 75 CRPF troopers and one state policeman, very few state personnel, most of them special police officers, were present.
"Even if we buy their argument that the Narayanpur incident was during a 'routine' activity (the CRPF party was returning after seeing off a batch that was going on leave) what about incidents like Chintalnar? That definitely was a significant operation. Where were the state police?" asked a CRPF officer.
Also, in most cases, the state police person is a special police officer, who is a local recruited and given bare minimum training.
"The SPO's role is to guide us as the locals know the area better. But let us not discredit them. They have been doing a good job," Dua said.
But others in the CRPF ask what motivation would a person earning Rs 1,500 a month, and who lives in the region, have to go against the Maoists, whose major weapon against the locals is fear.
"There is only so much an SPO will be able to do. It will never compare to what a state police officer and able men under him can offer," he said.
Even regarding intelligence, the CRPF is not entirely convinced about the state police. CRPF sources said till a couple of days before the Chintalnar ambush, they had informed the state police that the Maoists, in an attempt to cut off the camps, were waylaying supplies meant for the camps.
"We had told them to try and ensure that the supplies reach our forces. But nothing was done even then," the officer said.
This is not to say that the CRPF is not at fault at all. Sources said an internal enquiry into the Chintalnar incident showed that the forces had violated standard operating procedure.
"Our forces stopped at a couple of places. We also understand they cooked a meal at a village, taking help from local villagers. This could have given away their movement, even though they were just about six kilometres from the camp," a CRPF source said, speaking on condition that he would not be identified for this report.
In the Narayanpur ambush, it is evident that the CRPF personnel took the same route that they had used while seeing off the personnel going on leave. There are also indications to show that the CRPF men, instead of walking in a spread out long line, were bunched together.
Chhattisgarh police officers said it is in this context that state Director General of Police Vishwa Ranjan said, 'We can't teach the CRPF how to walk'.
But the CRPF, while accepting they have been at fault, insist their officers and men were capable and why they decided on certain things depended on the situation on the ground at that point of time.
"We can't say anything about these issues. An inquiry is on. But even if it turned out to be true, we must also understand that our officers are trained to take the best strategic decision at that moment based on the ground realities. Not always do you get an alternative route when coming back. And even if there was one, we would not know what the situation on that route was. But what is happening here is that, the state police is evaluating us, the media is evaluating us, everyone is into the blame game," Dua said.
Beyond the finer points, the state police say the CRPF does not trust them.
"There might have been instances when our intelligence turned out to be not exactly accurate. But when they do not trust us, how can we work together? They think that we are in some way in cohort with the Maoists, which is preposterous," a senior police officer said, speaking on condition that he would not be identified for this report.
The CRPF does not deny this. Sources said there were indications that the police was not giving the operation their 100 percent.
"We have seen that when they have good information and an easy target, they go on their own, " says a CRPF source. "But for difficult operations, not only do they take us along, but are always ready to pass the blame on to us."
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